2022 Cohort of Local Professionals Selected for Two-Year Leadership and Career Development Program
Second cohort announced in program created by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in partnership with UConn; offers pipeline for new, more diverse leadership in Greater New Haven’s nonprofit community.
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (The Foundation) is excited to announce the members of the second cohort in the Nonprofit Management Program for Emerging Leaders of Color. The career development program was conceived in early 2021 as part of The Foundation’s Stepping Forward commitment to help the Greater New Haven community recover from the impact of COVID-19 and to advance racial equity throughout the region.
“We were energized by the first cohort of Emerging Leaders and learned along with them how to make
the program even stronger," says Jackie Downing, Senior Director of Grantmaking and Nonprofit
Support at The Foundation. "This program intentionally focuses on building leadership and practical
skills of people of color who are already part of the local nonprofit workforce and aspire to senior
positions. Our intention is to help create a pipeline for new, more diverse leadership in Greater New
Haven’s nonprofit community."
The 2022 participants were selected in July, and the program began in September when the Cohort met
as a collective to attend the first in a series of trainings by the University of Connecticut (UConn) School
of Public Policy over nine months. The lesson plan includes topics on: racial equity and system change,
governance, leading and cultivating strategic partnerships, community engagement, strategic planning,
budgeting, evaluation, advocacy, fundraising and communications. Compensation for the absence of
Cohort participants from their regular work schedule due to training will be provided to the participants’
nonprofit organizations in the form of a two-year general operating support grant from The Foundation.
Participants will also receive undergraduate or graduate credit and a $1,000 scholarship toward future
studies at UConn. After the UConn training component, participants will lead their respective
organizations in an organizational assessment and take charge of the conversation with staff and Board
to implement associated recommended changes.
The program framework was designed by co-leads Dr. David Garvey, Director of the University of
Connecticut Department of Public Policy’s Nonprofit Leadership Program and Management Consultant
Cynthia Rojas, along with adjunct instructor topic experts and seasoned practitioners.
Members of the 2022 Nonprofit Management Program for Emerging Leaders of Color Cohort:
Tamara Clayton, Canal Dock Boathouse, Inc.
Tamara Clayton was born in southern California and now calls New Haven home. As a rowing coach at
Canal Dock Boathouse, Inc., she provides boating and fitness programming for the New Haven
community. Her nonprofit career has spanned 10 years, including work on the youth, collegiate and
adult levels. With a focus on building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community boathouse,
Clayton knows that representation matters. She hopes to positively impact the lives of athletes — not
only on and off the water, but also through gained experience that will help them advance in the real
world as well. “It is so rewarding to give unselfishly to another and watch that person achieve
greatness," she says. "That feeling is unsurpassed in life."
Crystal Fernández, New Haven Ecology Project
Bronx native Crystal Fernández came to New Haven in 2001 during her early teens. She is a Common
Ground High School alum (class of 2005), Common Ground leader (2019), Common Ground parent (class
of 2025) and most recently, Fernández was promoted to the position of Green Jobs Corps Director at
Common Ground. Fernández is an active sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., the first
nationally recognized Latina sorority. Fernández has 14 years of experience in nonprofit community-
based organizations with a focus on youth leadership, workforce development and coaching. She holds a
B.A. in General Studies with a concentration in African American, Latino and Urban Studies and Public
Administration from Charter Oak State College. Fernández is a co-founder of Friends of Kimberly Park, a
community greenspace in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven. She credits her village for her success
and describes herself as a radical change maker. Fernández is passionate about her work and does it all
while raising four children, ages 14, 9, 8 and 3, as a single parent.
Lorrice Grant, Haven’s Harvest
Lorrice Grant, Director of Operations at Haven’s Harvest, is a seasoned community nutritionist; an
experienced manager in the nonprofit sector; and a champion for food justice. She is a Greater New
Haven native and uses every opportunity to make a positive impact in her community. Grant is a board
member of CPEN, a member of Witness to Hunger, and was an active member of the Food Policy
Council. She holds certificates in culinary arts, lactation consulting and food safety. She says her God-
given gift of support is the driving force that fuels her passion and love for community, and that she uses
her gift as a volunteer at Vox Church and in every facet of her life.
Catherine John, Diaper Bank of Connecticut
Catherine John is a Trinbagonian currently residing in the Newhallville section of New Haven. A mother
of two amazing young adults, she is also a student, a Program Coordinator at the Diaper Bank of
Connecticut and lead organizer for Black and Brown United in Action. Throughout her years of
community organizing and nonprofit experience, she has organized urban renewal and health equity
tasks, created and implemented community-building strategies that engage residents and anchor
institutions, and assisted with establishing a grassroots volunteer organization throughout New Haven
County. Always an advocate for the voiceless and a fighter for the unheard, John writes and presents
legislative testimony for various social injustices, organizing and co-organizing calls to action to raise
awareness and press for change to empower communities.
Sandra McKinnie, Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association
Sandra McKinnie is the Grants Developer for the Greater New Haven Business and Professional
Association. She says her "war against poverty" began on the campus of Howard University decades ago.
McKinnie's professional work encompasses social equity and empowerment positions such as Project
Fresh Start; Warren Kimbro Re-entry Project; and case management for the formerly-incarcerated under
the tutelage of Probate Court Judge Clifton Graves. McKinnie is a member of JustHouHS Community
Advisory Board (providing justice, housing and health studies with Yale School of Public Health); Vera
Institute of Justice; and The Innocence Project in New York and Connecticut. She is a recipient of the
prestigious Ellen Bree Burns Award of Excellence in Criminal Justice, and a member of Kappa Gamma Pi,
Catholic College Graduate Honor Society. A community advocate and organizer for over 18 years,
McKinnie is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at the time of this announcement.
Yakeita Robinson, LEAP
Yakeita Robinson was raised in Bridgeport, Conn. She moved to New Haven in her teens, where she
attended Wilbur Cross High School. Robinson then earned her B.A. in psychology from Albertus Magnus
College. She has over 15 years of experience working with youth and young adults. Currently she serves
as the Chief of Staff at Leadership, Education, Athletics in Partnership, Inc. (LEAP). Robinson has always
had a passion for working with youth and giving back to her community. She currently sits on the board
for Phenomenal I Am Inc., a mentoring organization for young girls based in New Haven. She also
volunteers at local organizations to provide resources such as books, school supplies and emergency
Hossna Samadi, Sanctuary Kitchen, CitySeed
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and resettled in New Haven in 2016, Hossna Samadi has passionately
devoted the past five years to advocating for and serving refugees and immigrants in New Haven in
many different capacities. Having experienced the challenges of being a refugee firsthand, she is
passionate about supporting, assisting and amplifying their voices, particularly Afghan women. In her
volunteer work with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), she serves as a member of the
Cultural Companion Ally Team and as an Ambassador, speaking to a wide range of audiences. Samadi is
the co-founder of the Collective for Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Wellbeing, whose grant-
sponsored pilot project partners with Yale University’s Program on Recovery and Health in the
Community. She is a Program Associate at Sanctuary Kitchen by CitySeed.
Keith Smith, The Country School; Sacred Heart University
Keith Smith earned his Master of Music degree from James Madison University and his B.A. in Music
Education from Old Dominion University in Virginia. Smith distinguished himself through academic
excellence, merit scholarships and graduate assistantships throughout his education. Smith currently
works at The Country School in Madison, Conn., as the band director and director of Diversity, Equity,
Inclusion and Belonging. He is also the pep band director for Sacred Heart University. As a member of
the CMEA Advocacy committee, Smith pushes for equal opportunities for music students across the
state. Smith is currently pursuing an EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern
Connecticut State University.Jaquanna Soules, The Connecticut Women's Consortium, Inc.
Jaquanna Soules is born and raised in New Haven, Conn. She earned a B.A. degree in Psychology from
Clark Atlanta University and works as the Marketing Coordinator for The Connecticut Women's
Consortium. In addition to her role at the Consortium, she is also the Media Specialist at her church
Thomas Chapel. Soules has over 15 years of experience with nonprofits through both professional and
volunteer work. She has worked with organizations such as Special Olympics Connecticut, American
Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, Nubian Sisters Cancer Support Group, The Monk Center and The
National Veterans Council for Legal Redress to name a few. Soules' passion is photography and graphic
design, but overall, she says, she loves being able to help others through her God-given gifts and talents.
To get her through her day, she says, she simply cannot live without family, faith and technology.
Dina Tareq, Havenly
Tareq is originally from Baghdad, Iraq, and came to the U.S. in 2014 as a refugee. She holds a B.A. degree
in Healthcare Management, a field of study that called to her due to the health disparities faced by
many refugees and immigrants that live in her community. She is fluent in Arabic and Turkish, having
previously worked directly with newly-admitted refugees as an interpreter at several resettlement
agencies. She has helped refugees in knowing their rights and the different services afforded to them as
residents. Tareq works as a Sales and Communications Director at Havenly, where she says it has
become part of a family for her and where she feels she is surrounded by the community. Tareq's
favorite hobby is learning new skills, and recently she is interested in exploring different languages, as
they help her explore new cultures around the world.About The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in Connecticut is one of the oldest and largest
community foundations in the U.S. and was established in 1928 as the permanent charitable
endowment for New Haven and its surrounding communities of: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire,
Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford,
Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford, West Haven, and Woodbridge. In 2020, The Foundation began
implementing a 5-year strategic plan and enacted new mission and vision statements toward expanding
opportunity and equity in Greater New Haven. In 2021, it launched Stepping Forward, a $26 million
commitment to addressing the impact of COVID-19 and advancing racial equity. The Foundation’s
mission is to inspire, support, inform, listen to and collaborate with the people and organizations of
Greater New Haven to build an ever more connected, inclusive, equitable and philanthropic
For more than three generations, generous local donors have built The Community Foundation’s
endowment by establishing permanent funds or making gifts to existing funds that distribute grants to a
broad variety of issues and organizations. These donors, past and present, make their gifts to ensure
that programs and causes that matter most to them will be supported today and forever. As of
December 31, 2021, The Foundation’s assets were valued at more than $871 million after distributing
more than $35 million in grants and distributions into the community that year. For more information
about The Foundation visit www.cfgnh.org
or follow @cfgnh on facebook and twitter.